Before we left Barcelona, Matt & I were able to have an amazing night out thanks to our friend Tanja, who watched Cameron for the night. As I tripped through the streets, belly full of delicious pintxos and cocktails, I finally began to understand why everyone loves Barcelona. I can’t wait to go back next spring so I can go back to Ideal Bar and Maitea Taberna!

Pinxtos at Maitea Taberna: (L) fresh cheese with pine nuts, raisins, walnuts (R) cabrales (blue) cheese with walnuts

Maitea Tabersa is a pintxos bar mostly frequented by locals, and for good reason. It’s incredibly crowded, and not exactly a cozy place to have a romantic dinner. But the pintxos are amazing. Pintxos are like tapas, in that they are small bites of food, but to my mind they’re even better. Each is a portion of food on a slice of baguette, speared through with a toothpick. At the end of your meal, your toothpicks are counted for your bill.

Anchovies with onion

You can imagine why this idea appeals to me, especially when each pintxo is 1.55E. Endless mixing and sampling! And so little risk to trying each thing! While each pintxo was not perfect, we had some really amazing combinations. Our favorites included a crab salad with tuna, a thin slice of pork fried with cheese and ham, and a caramelized pineapple slice on spicy chorizo.

We managed to find a spot at the bar, where you can easily access the cold pintxos in display cases. Most of these were combinations of cured meats, cheese, and seafood. Hot pintxos were prepared in the kitchen and would come out in waves, offered by the bustling waitstaff. Snagging a particularly delicious looking morsel before the crowd got it was all part of the game. At the end of the night, our bill was less than 30E.

After pintxos, we headed down the street to Dry Martini Bar. Although the bar had an old-time atmosphere, with deep cushioned seats and dark wood paneling, it did feel like a bit of a tourist trap. There was a colorfully attired man singing opera and going from table to table selling roses. The menu was sponsored by Bacardi and Grey Goose and featured an array of fruity and colorful cocktails. I ordered a Negroni, and Matt had a martini. While we waited, we watched the lab-coat attired bartenders splash gin (no measuring here!) into the specially bar-branded cocktail shakers. The gin in my Negroni was a bit overwhelming, but it was fun to see the action. Each cocktail was 12E.

After Dry Martini, we headed down the street a few blocks to Bar Ideal. This bar was much quieter, with only a few patrons sitting at the bar, nursing gin & tonics served in huge balloon glasses. When I asked the bartender, he said that was the way here in Spain. I ordered an Aperol Spritz and Matt had an Americano. Both were fantastic, and we enjoyed them while watching the bartenders josh with the patrons and balance trays full of liquor and glasses. In Barcelona, if you order a liquor at your table, it seems common for the waiter to bring the bottle to your table and pour it there. The bar is nautically-themed, with plush red chairs and amusing paintings of ships at sea. Very pleasant. Each cocktail was 9E.